How to spend New Year in Auckland?
Husband and I traveling for first time to NZ this December. Goal is to eat well among a fun (but not wild) crowd on New Year's Eve in Auckland. Venue should have great wine and beer list and be serious about its menu. Any ideas? Also looking for your top picks for restaurants in Auckland and Christchurch featuring seafood.
I dont really have any gems to recommend specifically for NYE - bear in mind that the city often empties out (ie that means its even emptier than usual which is already pretty empty!) around Xmas/NY - and while im sure there will be some stuff going on on NYE in the CBD - probably in the newly revamped Aotea square, probably some kind of band and a countdown - the atmosphere of a NZ NYE celebration often tends to be of the "drunken teenagers downing RTDs and then passing out on the footpath" type :) A better bet is probably to go for dinner around the Viaduct area - unlike the top part of town which can feel a bit barren, the viaduct has a much better vibe with the water/boats and there are some good places to eat (I would recommend Soul - the fish is always good and its got an enviable position right on the water - great bar, great food). http://www.soulbar.co.nz/
definitely would need to book for that night as the only issue with soul is its SO popular, esp the outside tables.
Beer list - you have touched on a real sore point here! NZ restaurants do wine lists pretty well - some very very well - but beer is a different story. The best place i have found to get a great beer list is the chain of Belgian pubs - they also do green lipped mussel pots - so you can combine great beer and NZ mussels - but bear in mind the great beer will be belgian not kiwi. If you want to try great kiwi beer, your best bet is to head to a supermarket/bottle store and stock up on some like Epic lager. anyway this site may be helpful: http://nzbeerblog.com/2010/08/15/pass-the-beer-list-please/
I would recommend The French Cafe for the food however it would be a case of simply turning up and going in there and having dinner - the surrounding street area is not much chop and its altogther less "party" atmosphere than Soul - but definitely somewhere to check out for great food perhaps on another night http://www.thefrenchcafe.co.nz/
if you are looking for something more "cheap and cheerful" and you love Thai food, check out Tom Yum Eden on Dominion Road (10 min by bus from town) - they do amazing seafood - whole snapper (the dish is called Pla Sam Rose) and also Squid larb - the best thai food in NZ by a mile - check my review here: http://www.dineout.co.nz/restaurant.php?rest=8777
sorry dont know places in ChCh
another option for NYE would be to go to Waiheke Island (off auckland's coast - about 45 mins by ferry) - there are loads of nice wineries there - you could have a lovely meal and stay over there - e.g. cable bay http://www.cablebayvineyards.co.nz/
check trip advisor as im sure there will be lots of info there. most people i think would agree that some of the best things about Auckland are not to be found in its CBD - the viaduct is OK but nothing compared to Sydney's waterfront - it would definitely be my pick if you want to/have to stay in central auckland for NYE - but if you have a choice and can be somewhere out of auckland e.g. waiheke - you can probably take more advantage of the uniqueness of the area - the winery settings, the views, the harbour etc (and still get great food).
hope this was useful - have a great trip!